SAN ANTONIO – This time most years, the Spurs would be right in the middle of their offseason, recovering from months of grueling practices and physical battles on the court.
This year, the team is ramping back up into game shape after nearly four months away from the game they love.
“It’s hard to stay in basketball shape if you’re not playing basketball,” forward DeMar DeRozan said. “You can work out as much as you want, be in the weight room as much as you want, but it’s a different type of feeling when you get out on that court and you’re playing basketball.”
On Saturday, after spending 36 hours in quarantine, the Spurs took the court at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando for the first time together since the NBA season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic. It’s the next step in a month-long process of building towards live game action. The players and coaching staff know that the first few days will be difficult to navigate, but for right now, they’re just thrilled to see each other again.
“We felt like a lot of loose poodles let out of the cage,” DeRozan explained. “We were running around, shooting balls... just being around those guys after months of not playing, with everything going on in the world. Yesterday was short, sweet and to the point, but afterwards you definitely felt it. It’s something we definitely have to ease in to, but it’s expected. To go so long without action, we knew there’d be a little rust involved.”
“To be able to come out here and do what we love is just enjoyable right now,” guard Bryn Forbes said. “It’s not under the best circumstances, or circumstances that anybody would want, but I think we’re really enjoying ourselves.”
The most important part of the day likely happened before practice even began. The Spurs got together in a circle and shared their thoughts and experiences from the past four months. DeRozan said the talk provided some emotional catharsis.
“One thing I have experienced every day since I came to the Spurs was having those conscious conversations about what’s going on in the real world. This wasn’t anything new, but it was refreshing to have it after not having it for so long. We sat in a circle for about an hour and discussed all of the social injustices, racism, the real things going on in life. We shared stories. Everybody was sharing how they’re helping and how they can help.”
With their bond renewed on the court, and reinforced off it, the Spurs now have 11 days to prepare for their first inter-squad scrimmage against the Milwaukee Bucks. The team will play their first regular season game since March on July 31 against the Sacramento Kings. Tip off is scheduled for 7 p.m.
More views from last night's first practice in Orlando 📸— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) July 12, 2020
Day ✌️ coming up! pic.twitter.com/S5Ajligw64